Notices prepared for posting on the UConn Physics Department web page under the announcements section.

UConn’s Old Planetarium Gets a New Upgrade

After an extensive collaborative effort and restoration process by UConn faculty, facilities staff, and students, Connecticut’s oldest planetarium will soon be back in action.

Once used for education and outreach for UConn faculty, students, and community members, the planetarium fell into disuse in the last several years, but Department of Physics Assistant Professor-in-Residence Matt Guthrie has been working hard with skilled facilities staff, including CLAS Facilities Team Leader Brett DeMarchi, to bring this piece of UConn history back into working order.

The planetarium was built in 1954 and has served since as a hub for sharing astronomical information with UConn and surrounding communities. The late Professor Cynthia Peterson was the planetarium’s curator for many years; it was her favorite place on campus, and she regularly shared her enthusiasm for astronomy by hosting events there.

The original A1 Spitz Star and Planet Projector, used for over 50 years for teaching others about the wonders of the universe, is now on display in the Gant Science Complex along with a plaque in dedication to the planetarium’s long-time curator, Professor Cynthia Peterson.
The original A1 Spitz Star and Planet Projector, used for over 50 years for teaching others about the wonders of the universe, is now on display in the Gant Science Complex along with a plaque in dedication to the planetarium’s long-time curator, Professor Cynthia Peterson. (Contributed photo)

In 2022, when Guthrie first toured the facility with Physics Department Academic Assistant Dave Perry, they were not sure what they would find and felt it was a shame the facility had fallen into disrepair. With encouragement from fellow physics faculty members Jon Trump and then Department Head Professor Barry Wells, Guthrie decided to take the project on, and together with Perry, DeMarchi, and others, they have been slowly but surely bringing the venerable planetarium back into campaigning shape.

“When I first toured the facility, it was still my first year at UConn full-time and I was looking for a project to dedicate all my free time to,” Guthrie says. “From the start, as I was doing research about it and learning more about Cynthia, I felt a sense of responsibility that if I was going to fill at least part of the hole that was left after she retired, we needed the proper recognition for everything that she had done, especially with the planetarium.”

The first time DeMarchi walked into the dome, he says it was like stepping back in time:

“It was almost pitch black and the antique projector was covered in dust — a unique piece of history to marvel at from a time when technology was much simpler!”

DeMarchi says a previous project study with a larger scope had a budget that was unfeasible, but he had some ideas to help keep the costs down while still freshening up the facility without major renovations to the existing structure. A new proposal was submitted to CLAS, accepted, and with funding, the project moved ahead.

Guthrie wanted to be sure the history of the planetarium was preserved, so, in the process of clearing out the facility to make way for new equipment, the team kept whatever they could for posterity, including the original A1 Spitz star and planet projector.

“We put the old projector on display in the physics department to make sure that we are not rewriting the history of the planetarium. That has been the guiding light for how I approach this project. We did buy a new projector, but we’re not changing the internal structure of the building,” says Guthrie.

Shortly after starting this project, Guthrie also started working on the UConn Observatory and both projects have kept him very busy, but he says he is glad to be able to dedicate the time to get these resources back up and running for the department and community.

Guthrie also has student help, including Danya Alboslani (CLAS) ’24 who has helped with both renovation processes.

Alboslani first got involved as a sophomore wanting to learn more about the planetarium and observatory that no one seemed to have details about,

“I wanted to get more information about the planetarium on campus. UConn is a great school with astronomy professors who do amazing work, so if we have a planetarium and an alleged observatory, why don’t we use them?”

Alboslani connected with Guthrie and says working with him on the restoration projects has been amazing,

“Ever since I first contacted him, he’s made me feel very involved in the entire process. Professor Guthrie went out of his way to keep me updated on everything. I helped to write the memorial plaque about Professor Peterson — also a woman in STEM and UConn’s first women physics professor.”

Sealing up the dome and making the facility waterproof once again took a lot of effort, says DiMarchi. Thanks to the extensive collaborative efforts with UConn Facilities Operations, the planetarium is almost ready for action again.
Sealing up the dome and making the facility waterproof once again took a lot of effort, says DiMarchi. Thanks to the extensive collaborative efforts with UConn Facilities Operations, the planetarium is almost ready for action again. (Contributed photo)

A tricky issue was the planetarium’s 16-foot dome, which had to be resealed, but once that was resolved, Guthrie said the interior work could go ahead. Though it has been a slow process, Guthrie says the end is in sight. The internal painting was completed in January and the external painting will be done as soon as the weather warms up.

DeMarchi says the team is very appreciative of the extensive collaborative efforts from UConn Facilities Operations.

“Every Facilities Shop Supervisor that I contacted was on board to assist. Special thanks to Nate Bedard of Interior Renewals for his help with project coordination and flooring. Chris Gisleson and his team put a lot of effort into sealing the exterior of the dome. Jon Cooke researched the correct reflective paint needed for the interior of the dome and his team painted the structure. Jennifer Peshka provided testing and compliance guidance throughout. CLAS Shared Services student workers Cole Shillington (CLAS) ‘24 and Alex Gervais (CAHNR) ‘24 were a big help with various tasks that came up.”

Though they don’t have a firm launch date yet, Guthrie hopes they will be up and running by summertime. The team plans to install carpeting and purchase new chairs soon. Guthrie says they removed the old projector platform, which was about six feet in diameter, and Perry and Senior Machine Shop Engineer Machinist Ray Celmer are working to make a sturdy stand that will have a small 18-inch footprint which will allow for more flexibility and accessibility in the space.

“Newer planetariums are structuring their seating charts as if there is a front of the building, and that’s where they project the main action of the show, where other things can happen around you,” Guthrie says. “We have the possibility of moving around to make it so that there is a front of the room. That depends on what we want to do and how the building evolves to meet our needs. I wanted to leave that possibility open.”

When deciding on what new projector to order, Guthrie says he chose a company that specializes in portable planetarium projectors, because other than being the oldest planetarium in the state, this is likely the state’s smallest permanent planetarium.

The planetarium’s new projector comes equipped with around 100,000 premade shows and makes it easy for users to design their own shows, so physics students and faculty can share their research and produce educational content for classes or outreach events.
The planetarium’s new projector comes equipped with around 100,000 premade shows and makes it easy for users to design their own shows, so physics students and faculty can share their research and produce educational content for classes or outreach events. (Contributed photo)

“I went with this projector model because it’s perfect for the size of our dome. The new projector gives users access to around 100,000 pre-made shows, and a bonus is the software is easy to learn so users can write their own planetarium shows. What I’m hoping is that interested astronomy students will be able to lead outreach events with shows they have designed themselves and if they want to get involved it will be lower stress to learn how to use the projector within this cool piece of UConn history.”

Physics Ph.D. student Kelcey Davis is eager for the facility to open and says the astrophysics graduate students and faculty are all very passionate about what they do and are excited this project will provide the opportunity to engage with the public.

“I saw the projector for the first time just a few days ago and have driven it once. It’s operated by a video game controller, so it helps to be a nerd!” says Davis.

Davis works with the James Webb Space Telescope and hopes to develop shows that break down the big discoveries the telescope has made since first light and make them digestible to a broader audience.

“I’m excited to showcase some of the research I and others in the department are doing. NASA has come out with some cool visuals, and I’d love to share them. A great example is the flight to ‘Maisie’s galaxy,’ the most distant galaxy in the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science Survey (CEERS), which I work on. The light from this galaxy traveled 13.4 billion light years to reach us.”

Guthrie also has ideas for shows: for example, a simulated rocket launch. The projector can show the flight through clouds and the atmosphere and once the sound system is installed, viewers can feel what it’s like to blast off. Guthrie says he is planning to hold at least one show per week once everything is up and running, as long as the demand is there.

“What I once thought I wouldn’t be able to see before I graduate is now slowly becoming a reality,” says Alboslani. “With Professor Guthrie leading the restoration of the planetarium and observatory, I know that he will make an impact on the community and the university for years to come.”

Guthrie is excited for the future with both the observatory and the planetarium back in action.

“The observatory has incredible potential for completely changing the way that we do astrophysics research at UConn and the planetarium is completely different, but also super exciting. I can’t wait to see what this building is capable of.”

The project was made possible thanks to funding from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The Planetarium schedule will be updated with events once the facility is up and running. You can also keep up with events via Instagram.


Solar Eclipse Viewing Event: 2-4:30pm Mon Apr 8 on Horsebarn Hill

UConn faculty and students will host a community event to view the solar eclipse at 2:00-4:30pm this Monday, April 8, on Horsebarn Hill (behind the Dairy Bar). Here in Storrs we’ll observe a maximum occultation of 92% at 3:28pm. This is a very exciting and special opportunity, since the next time that our location will experience such an eclipse is not until 2079(!).

Details about the event are in the flyer embedded below, and also on the UConn Events Calendar. You can also listen to Prof. Jonathan Trump talk more about the solar eclipse on WILI-AM and on NBC CT.

Two physics undergrads among 2024 University Scholars

Two of UConn Physics Department’s undergrads, Rachel Cleveland and Nicholas Thiel-Hudson, have been recently selected as part of the 2024 cohort of UConn University Scholars! These students were selected based on the strength of their proposal. Graduation as a University Scholar recognizes a student’s extraordinary engagement with self-reflective learning and research or creative endeavors.

Rachel Cleveland

Major: Physics
Project Title: Determining the Parameters that Drive the Co-evolution of Black Holes and Galaxies
Committee: Daniel Angles-Alcazar, Physics; Cara Battersby, Physics; Lea Ferreira dos Santos, Physics

Project Summary: Cosmological simulations are incredibly useful tools for astrophysicists. They allow a deeper exploration of celestial phenomena and reveal their intricate workings. In the past, I have observed patterns between black holes and their host galaxies using SIMBA simulations. I now plan to enhance my research by transitioning to the CAMELS simulation. This offers the flexibility to manipulate various cosmological parameters, which brings the promise of uncovering the fundamental drivers behind my previously observed trends. This endeavor will help advance our understanding of the cosmos.

Rachel Cleveland is a junior honors student from Windsor, CT pursuing a major in Physics and a minor in Mathematics and Statistics. She is a McNair Scholar, Presidential Scholar, and Babbidge Scholar at UConn. She plans to attend a PhD program after graduation.

Nicholas Thiel-Hudson

Major: Physics and Music
Project title: Rare-Earth Manganites for CO2 Reduction and Quantum Sensing
Committee: Dr. Menka Jain, Physics; Dr. Peter Schweitzer, Physics; and Dr. Ronald Squibbs, Music

Project Summary: Lanthanum strontium manganite (LSMO) is a solid-state material that exhibits particularly interesting electrical and magnetic properties. This makes LSMO a good candidate for use in advanced technologies, however, it is very difficult to make. This project will investigate novel synthesis methods to fabricate LSMO powders and films for two different applications. Powders will be optimized for use as a selective electrocatalyst in the conversion of carbon dioxide into usable hydrocarbon products. Films will be optimized for use in quantum sensing, which is useful for advanced technologies.

Nicholas Thiel-Hudson, from New Fairfield, CT, is a Presidential Scholar pursuing dual degrees in Physics and Music. In his free time, he enjoys playing the violin and listening to music from around the world. Nicholas is also an avid weightlifter and occasional rock climber.

For the list of all 2024 University Scholars, visit University Scholars Program website.

Nobel Prize Winner, Professor Gérard Mourou, Katzenstein Distinguished Lecturer

The University of Connecticut, Department of Physics, is proud to announce that on October 20, 2023, Gérard Mourou, professor and member of Haut Collège at the École Polytechnique and A. D. Moore Distinguished University Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan and 2018 Nobel Prize winner, will be presenting the 25th Distinguished Katzenstein Lecture.

For the details of the lecture, see Physics Events Calendar

Gérard Mourou received his undergraduate education at the University of Grenoble (1967) and his Ph.D. from University Paris VI in 1973. He has made numerous contributions to the field of ultrafast lasers, high-speed electronics, and medicine. But, his most important invention, demonstrated with his student Donna Strickland while at the University of Rochester (N.Y.), is the laser amplification technique known as Chirped Pulse Amplification (CPA), universally used today. CPA revolutionized the field of optics, opening new branches like attosecond pulse generation, Nonlinear QED, and compact particle accelerators. It extended the field of optics to nuclear and particle physics. In 2005, Prof. Mourou proposed a new infrastructure, the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI), which is distributed over three pillars located in the Czech Republic, Romania, and Hungary. Prof. Mourou also pioneered the field of femtosecond ophthalmology that relies on a CPA femtosecond laser for precise myopia corrections and corneal transplants. Over a million such procedures are now performed annually. Prof. Mourou is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, and a foreign member of the Russian Science Academy, the Austrian Sciences Academy, and the Lombardy Academy for Sciences and Letters. He is Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur.

Research of Professor Trallero’s group featured in Advances in Engineering

A recent publication by Geoffrey Harrison, Tobias Saule, Brandin Davis, and Carlos Trallero from the Department of Physics, University of Connecticut is featured in Advances in Engineering. The publication presents a novel method for mitigating the bit-depth limit by increasing the phase precision of the Spatial Light Modulators (SLMs). The technique is based on adding irrational linear slopes in addition to the desired phase to increase the device’s effective bit-depth through an effect similar to volume averaging. The research is published in Applied Optics.

Spatial light modulators (SLMs) are devices that can modulate properties of light waves, such as phase, amplitude and polarization. SLMs are extensively used in numerous applications, including data storage, material processing and optical microscopy. With the widespread application of SLMs, the need to address the bit-depth and spatial resolution problems common to most SLMs is urgent.

The publication by Prof. Trallero’s group presented a technique for overcoming the bit-depth limitations of SLMs and verified it experimentally. The authors expressed confidence that the presented method could be used to gain multiple orders of magnitude with more precision beyond what was measured and obtained in their study.

About Advances in Engineering: Advances in Engineering ensures that the results of excellent scientific research are rapidly disseminated throughout the world, in a fashion that conveys their significance for advancing scientific knowledge and developing innovative technologies. Content is mainly targeted to an educated audience of engineering and physics students, scientists, and professors. Engineering fields covered are Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Materials Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Nanotechnology Engineering as well as General Engineering (aerospace Engineering, communication Engineering, computer Engineering, Agricultural Engineering, and Industrial Engineering).

Passing of Frederick Edward Steigert

Frederick Edward Steigert, of Westerly, RI passed away surrounded by the love of his family on Monday, May 29, 2023. He was the husband of Judith Carol (Lance) Steigert. Born in New York, New York on September 11, 1928, he was the son of the late Karl and Margarete (Shuppert) Steigert.

Frederick was a dedicated teacher and scholar. He was educated at Union College in Schenectady, New York. He received his PHD in Nuclear Physics at the University of Indiana. He was Director of Undergraduate Studies at Yale University followed by a career teaching and as an advising professor at the University of Connecticut where he was beloved by his students to whom he was a mentor. Frederick was an avid runner, storyteller and a dedicated historian. He served on the school board of Amity Regional High School in Woodbridge, Connecticut. He was a volunteer fireman in Bethany, Connecticut. He loved carpentry and masonry.

Besides his loving wife Judith Steigert, he leaves behind his daughters Heidi Polhemus and Cassandra Olesen. He also is survived by his sons Frederick W. Steigert and Richard E. Steigert and many grandchildren and great grandchildren. He was predeceased by his daughter Christine Spencer.

All services will be held privately at the convenience of the family.

Department of Physics is hosting Summer School on Electron-Ion Collider

The Department of Physics is hosting UConn-NSF summer school on Parton Saturation and Electron Ion Collider (EIC). The School will take place in Storrs, from August 1 to August 10, 2023. The school chair is Professor Alex Kovner. The school website can be found at

The Electron-Ion Collider is the next big experiment in high-energy nuclear physics. It is going to address a plethora of questions about the structure of protons and nuclei. One of the main exciting phenomena that it is intended to clarify is the manifestations of parton saturation. This has been predicted to occur in hadrons at high energy as well as in nuclei at lower energies. Although tantalizing hints of saturating behavior have been observed at Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) in Brookhaven National Lab and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, no cut-and-dry experimental case has been made for it yet. We hope that the experiments on nuclei at EIC will provide a convincing case for saturation. Another important aspect of EIC physics is scattering on polarized proton beams, which should improve our understanding of the so-called “proton spin crisis”.

The school is intended to graduate students and postdocs who want to extend their physics horizons or plan to pursue research in this or related areas. A preliminary list of lecturers at the school includes A. Mueller (Columbia), O.Hen (MIT), N. Armesto (Santiago de Campostela), A. Dumitru (CUNY, Baruch College), Yu. Kovchegov (Ohio State), L. Jin (UConn), V. Skokov (North Carolina State), B. Schenke (BNL). The schedule of lectures is available on the school website at

Chapter of Optica, UConn starts up

A University chapter of Optica (formerly known as OSA), the largest professional society for Optics and Photonics, has started at UConn. Physics graduate students Zhanna Rodnova and Kevin Watson, and Electrical and Computer Engineering graduate student Gokul Krishnan started the chapter in the Fall of 2022 to help students, undergraduate, and graduate, learn more about the world of optics and the professional opportunities within the field. Chapter of Optica, UConn is also organizing tours of laser and optics companies to give students further insight into possible careers after graduation. Additionally, the Optica Chapter holds social events, with the next social on Wednesday, April 12th at 6:30 pm at Hops 44, where everyone is welcome to learn more about optics and photonics research.

On April 21st, the Chapter will host its first Traveling Lecturer. Dr. Gregory Quarles, CEO of Applied Energetics, Inc. and former Chief Scientific Officer of Optica, to talk about career paths for students and early-career professionals. The colloquium will be at 3:30 pm in GW-002, with refreshments served in the Gant Light plaza. For any information, contact

Founding members of the UConn Chapter of Optica (from left): Kevin Watson,, Zhanna Rodnova, and Gokul Krishnan

UConn Physics hosts Quantum Matter Conference, Dec 19-22

Quantum matter and materials have grown to be active areas of modern condensed matter. The fascinating properties of quantum materials might lead to technological applications such as spintronics, quantum technologies, and quantum sensors. The combination of new materials discoveries and the development of new probes of quantum matter has helped shape these topics into an exciting area. Recent dynamic and pumped probe experiments reveal a strong promise of Dynamic Quantum Matter as a new research direction. We strive to measure, understand and predict transient correlations and coherences in quantum materials upon different driving conditions. Therefore, we introduce it as a new topic at this year’s quantum matter conference. We seek to have an active discussion on hidden, entangled, and dynamic orders that emerge in quantum matter and the potential applications beyond it.

The main focus for this upcoming conference will be on the modeling and experimental observations of Quantum Matter. Overall, the goal of this workshop is to bring together researchers to discuss and highlight emerging topics and develop ideas for future research.

The workshop is sponsored by the University of Connecticut, the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics, and the University of North Florida.

Venue: Innovation Partnership Building, UConn Tech Park

Confirmed Speakers:

Charles Ahn – Yale University
Pamir Alpay – UConn
Boris Altshuler – Columbia University
Daniel Arovas – University of California San Diego
Alexander Balatsky – University of Connecticut and NORDITA – Organizer
Victor Batista – Yale University
Kenneth Burch – Boston College
Paola Cappellaro – Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Rodrigo Cortiñas – Yale University
Ilya Drozdov – Brookhaven National Laboratory
Benjo Fraser – Stockholm University
Andrew Geraci – Northwestern University
Sinéad Griffin – Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Jason Haraldsen – the University of North Florida – Organizer
Menka Jain – University of Connecticut – Organizer
Yonathan Kahn – University of Illinois
Robert Konik – Brookhaven National Laboratory
Walter Krawec – University of Connecticut
Leonid Levitov – Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Daniel McCarron – University of Connecticut
Anatoli Polkovnikov – Boston University
Lea Santos – University of Connecticut – Organizer
James Sauls – Louisiana State University – Organizer
Daniel Sheehy – Louisiana State University
Ilya Sochnikov – University of Connecticut
Boris Spivak – University of Washington
Boris Svistunov – University of Massachusetts Amherst
William Terrano – Arizona State University
Carlos Trallero – University of Connecticut
Chandra Varma – University of California Riverside
Ilya Vekhter – Louisiana State University
Pavel Volkov – Rutgers University
Justin H. Wilson – Louisiana State University
Qin Yang – University of Connecticut

For more information:,